$500K grant could be essential to prevent Excelsior Springs sewer rate hike

August 24, 2018—The Missouri Water and Wastewater Review Committee recently granted the city of Excelsior Springs permission to complete a new income survey which could help provide a grant for sewer improvements.

MWWRC consists of individuals representing three agencies that provide grants for water and wastewater improvements.

City Manager Molly McGovern said the committee channels different grant options through their resources. This updated income survey will help determine if the city will be eligible to receive a $500,000 grant to fund a second aerobic digester for the wastewater plant. Public Works Director Chad Birdsong said the plants need the digester to prevent expensive repair processes to the existing digester.

“We already had to do (the repairs) once which cost in excess of $130,000 to repair and get it back operating about two years ago,” he said.

Birdsong said the original plans for the plant included two digesters, but officials removed one from the original plans due to cost overruns during their original construction. He said they made plans to build the digester within the first three years of operation, but funds have not been available. Because this digester remains un-built, McGovern said the current digester performs the work of two.

When the existing digester needed repairs, it forced the city to create a bypass and holding pattern for the untreated sewage. McGovern said the sewer plant contains no other backup plan. She said if the new digester remains un-built, the city will be forced to perform the expensive repairs regularly, resulting in a costlier option.

“We will be spending so much more than this if we don’t spend this,” she said. “I feel like we don’t have a choice.”

The city’s sewer bond, used to make previous sewer improvements, contains approximately $300,000, which McGovern said city officials saved for improvements. This plus the proposed grant would cover about half the cost of the digester. A few options exist to pay for the remainder of the digester. McGovern said city officials currently work toward making that final determination.

Finance Department Director Steve Marriott provided MWWRC with a numerical list of all local sewer customers. The committee then selected 500 customers at random to survey. McGovern said at least 51 percent of Excelsior Springs sewer customers must be deemed at the low-to-moderate income level, which is determined by MWWRC, to qualify for the grant. She said the committee also requires a return of at least 80 percent of surveys to qualify.

The city will mail the 500 coded surveys with a pre-paid return envelope. She said residents who receive the survey should carefully read all included instructions in order for the survey to be deemed accurate.

Each survey will be coded so the finance department will be able to determine who returned their survey. McGovern said anyone who feels afraid their personal information could be compromised should not worry. The information will be protected from release. After city officials determine they have received all mailed surveys, she said they may be forced to go door-to-door to obtain the minimum required amount of surveys.

The committee will then analyze the data to see if Excelsior Springs qualifies for the grant.

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